Disfiguring the face of Roman Catholicism

As Pope Benedict departs, what will the next era bring for the Church (Source: Wikipedia)

The last half-decade — since the 2006 midterm elections, really — has been a spectacularly bad spell for the Republican Party and for American conservatives in general.

So it’s a particularly painful reality that things have been even worse for that other great conservative institution that shapes so much of our cultural and political life, the Roman Catholic church.

Yes, the GOP faces a persistent leadership crisis, as well as a grave generational disconnect with young voters, women and people of color.

Yes, Republicans have planted their flag in opposition to things like tolerance for homosexuality, the wide availability of contraception and active environmentalism.

But such things are cyclical in a political party and can be remedied with relative ease.

The Church, meanwhile, faces a similar crisis with no obvious mechanisms for finding a solution.

In the last month, Pope Benedict resigned abruptly, speaking of “divisions” within his hierarchy and worrying aloud over the “sometimes disfigured face” of Roman Catholicism.

The Vatileaks scandal, following on the priest pedophilia debacle, has now given way to the resignation of Britain’s senior Catholic cleric, Cardinal Keith O’Brien, in the wake of allegations that he made sexual advances toward other clergymen.

Then there’s the high-profile case of Monsignor Kevin Wallin, a clergyman in Connecticut, arrested for allegedly dealing crystal meth.

The problem for the Chuch is that it lacks any obvious means to claw its way out of this dead-end.  A generation of highly conservative clerics in the post-Vatican 2 era have essentially closed off any dialogue with modernity.

Even as evidence mounts that homosexuality is just as common among priests as it is in the general population, the Church continues to dismiss it as an illegitimate perversion.

Even as the wider culture accepts women as equals to men, and as the ranks of ordained priests dwindle, the Church shrugs off any meaningful conversation about a marriage option for the priesthood, or the ordination of women.

Catholic leaders regularly dismiss this kind of essay as misguided, suggesting that without sharing the Roman Catholic faith no journalist can treat the Church’s crisis fairly or with any insight.

Indeed, many church leaders continue to argue that critics have it backwards.  It is the wider culture, not the fiber and weave of Catholicism, that is in tatters.

“So we could say maybe (some) people have lost the gift of faith because we’ve created a society where people can’t believe,” said Cardinal Francis George of Chicago, in an interview with with the Chicago Tribune.

Maybe so.  But when a man is about to drown, it makes no sense to blame the sea.  He should look first to his own leaky boat.

It goes without saying that the Church remains a vital, deeply valuable institution in America, particularly in areas like the North Country.

But the next pope has a narrowing window of time to answer truly existential questions about the structure, the message and the spiritual values of Roman Catholicism.

There are signs that top leaders still don’t understand the peril of this crisis or the severity of the damage to their credibility.

Consider this.  Cardinal Roger Mahony, the semi-retired former top cleric from Los Angeles, California, has been stripped of most of his diocesan duties because of his documented efforts to shield pedophile priests.

One priest under Mahony’s supervision fled to Mexico to escape police prosecution after he was warned that he was in “a good deal of danger” by a top Mahony aide.

(Can you imagine if Mahony’s staff had helped an accused bank robber or a drug dealer to escape police?  But no.  In this case, it was only an alleged molester.)

Yet Mahony will be one of the cardinals allowed to participate in the sacred selection process in Rome that will produce the next pontiff.

(Before departing for Rome, New York Cardinal Timothy Dolan was also deposed recently by lawyers bringing lawsuits over hundreds of sexual abuse cases in Milwaukee, where Dolan was archbishop.)

And there’s the challenge in a nutshell.  How do you clean house when the guys who trashed the house continue to claim a mandate from God?


94 Comments on “Disfiguring the face of Roman Catholicism”

  1. Rancid Crabtree says:

    I would still like to hear a defense of why linking the GOP or conservatives in general to the problems in the Catholic Church is anything other than sheer politics and why completely ignoring the rampant lies, greed, crimes, etc. of the Democrat party and linking them to other organizations problem issues is nifty keeno?

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  2. Marc says:

    Rancid, “7 women/4 men” et al. is a straw man and you know it. You don’t have to bring in all conceivable forms of “marriage” to recognize that marriage is between two “people” is the obvious change from the current special case of one man, one woman.

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  3. Pete Klein says:

    I have said from the very start of the pedophilia problem in the Catholic Church that the problem is a secular legal problem more than a church problem.
    What? The basic mistake began when people went to a priest to complain about someone being molested and abused by a priest. They should have made the complaint to the police. And when they went to a priest to complain about a priest, the priest should have told them to take their case to the police.
    This mess would never have become the mess it has become if the police were brought in at the start.

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  4. Rancid Crabtree says:

    It’s no strawman Marc. Plural marriages are illegal. If marriage outside the traditional 1m/1w are okay, then why is it wrong to allow other than couples or a brother/sister? It may be theoretical as far as the numbers desiring this, but it’s still a valid question.

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  5. Jonathan Brown says:

    Rancid-

    Unfortunately, naming Republican women who have been elected doesn’t get to the larger point of influence within the party.

    Being elected — and even being promoted as the increasingly diverse face of the GOP — doesn’t give these women a significant role in shaping the Republican Party’s platform or its policies.

    And this is the link between the GOP and the Roman Catholic Church, no matter how much you, Mervel, Larry and others try to deny it. Both the Church and the GOP are run exclusively by men.

    Remember, the Church has high-level women, too: nuns. But these women don’t plot the course of the institution. The Leadership Conference of Women Religious (American nuns) decided they’d minister to everyone (regardless of gender, orientation, etc) and the Vatican ordered the women to stop and submit to a team of bishops.

    The point of this original post was that these institutions are highly resistant to change. They only need to make one, though: they need to give women a voice in shaping their future. (Seriously, why can’t a woman be a priest?) This will lead to lots of other changes, of course, and that’s probably why neither the Church nor the GOP want to go down this path.

    They need to, though, if they want to survive.

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  6. Jonathan Brown says:

    Hm. I stand corrected:

    The New York Times’ top story right now is headlined:

    Republicans Sign Brief in Support of Gay Marriage

    http://www.nytimes.com/2013/02/26/us/politics/prominent-republicans-sign-brief-in-support-of-gay-marriage.html?hp&_r=0

    Just below this story on the site’s homepage is a video interview with Margaret Hoover, a Republican strategist. She explains the party’s position.

    I wonder if she lobbied for greater GOP support of same-sex marriage and then wrote the party’s statement or if this idea came from leadership and she was asked to flesh it out on paper.

    This kind of wondering, though, splits an awfully fine hair. It seems the GOP, at least, is opening the door to women.

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  7. Mervel says:

    Hi John,

    I missed your earlier points, sorry. I certainly don’t deny that the Spiritual side of the Magistratum is by doctrine male only. (Bishops, Priests and deacons). However females do hold positions of power in the institutional Church. For example Directors of Catholic Institutions, such as Universities, Hospitals and Charities. These positions would in fact end up being larger from a fiscal and human resources stand point than being a priest or even a Bishop. I am not sure about not ministering to everyone? I know that Catholic Charities, Catholic Hospitals etc, by doctrine and by Church teaching serve everyone, regardless of sexual orientation, gender, religion etc. I think the Nuns were making a very good point about what we emphasize and what we don’t emphasize, and this upset some of the Bishops, they were not arguing against basic doctrine. But I think that is healthy it is why the Church is still one Church instead of splintering off every time someone disagrees, then you end up with 10,000 different denominations.

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  8. Lapsed Catholic says:

    When I was a kid in the 1980′s the priest in Altona (north of Plattsburgh) got caught in inappropriate relationships with boys. When I asked my mom what would happen to him, she told me that he would be shipped somewhere else, and probably molest more kids there too. She told me that the church puts pressure on parents not to press charges.

    They later found the priest working in New Hampshire. EVERYBODY KNEW THIS WAS HAPPENING FOR DECADES. If you didn’t know, it was will full ignorance.

    North Country transplants don’t know the actual history of the Catholic Church in the North Country. Do you know that in Catholic girls schools they would repeatedly tell girls that if they became nuns their parents would get an automatic ticket into heaven? Ask anybody who went to Catholic School in the 1950′s or 1960′s about how poor students were treated by nuns. French Catholics were told they had to go to rural churches in Plattsburgh, they weren’t supposed to be in nice Churches like St. John’s.

    The Catholic priesthood used to be a way for gay men to avoid questions about when they were getting married. I wish the church would get into some level of reality, but I am morbidly fascinated what a church will look like with virtually no priests in twenty years.

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  9. Paul says:

    Don’t know what the fate of the US Catholic church is but it sure has gotten interest in this blog.

    Jim’s numbers are interesting. It looks like the church is holding steady as far as what percentage of the world population is Catholic. I wonder how that compares as far as religion in general? The numbers of schools and students has been on a pretty steady rise. From 28 to 49 million students in 40 years. That seems pretty significant.

    “The Catholic priesthood used to be a way for gay men to avoid questions about when they were getting married.” Really, interesting?

    It was also, for some members of my family, a way to go out into the world and help people.

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  10. Pete Klein says:

    Paul, becoming a priest was also and probably still is a way for some to get a quality education.
    As far as the gay priest thing goes, I never knew any. I went to Catholic schools (educated by nuns in grade school and priests and brothers in high school) in the 40′s and 50′s, graduated from high school in 1961, and never experienced or heard of any problems.

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  11. Mervel says:

    Certainly there has been very bad ideas and warped teachings and some very bad and criminal things happen within the Church, we certainly can’t deny that, I would deny it was policy or was part of the true Christian Church. But Catholics today can’t expect victims of abuse to cut the Church a break, some of these law suites are very good for the Church bring out the corruption it can only help us move forward.

    I think the priest shortage will not be a stumbling block. The Deacons are already filling a huge void and indeed will play a larger role in the future. You may reach a point that Deacons will be called to do even more. The other option of course is to look into allowing Parish Priests to marry. For me I think this would be great, many many of these great Deacons were at one time potential priests who went to the seminary but also were called to marriage, there is a ready pool of potential priests. We will see what will happen. Outside of the Pope himself, I personally think a lot of what goes on in Vatican City is corrupt, they need to get rid of that bank to start with.

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  12. Mervel says:

    Its too bad that what interests the world about the Church; the politics, the buildings, the conclaves, the traditions, the hats, the art etc, are the least important things about the Church. The Church is just as present in the burning sacrifice of Christs love offered in the Sacraments in a clay and wood hut in Africa or in someone’s basement in China, as it is in the grandest Cathedral in Vatican City. The Body and Blood of Christ are just as real in those places as it is in St. Peter’s square offered by the Pope himself.

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  13. Two Cents says:

    “The Catholic priesthood used to be a way for gay men to avoid questions about when they were getting married.”

    lets be fair and include some nuns as well, the ones that aren’t re-incarnated mafia hit men anyway.
    here’s my memory of the catholic church from my childhood.
    My older brother (and sister) went to catholic school. my brother played snare drum with the marching band. enthusiastic as an eight year old can be, he would use pencils, and pretend to play in class.
    sister mary joseph “the bulldog” bennadetto, (not her real name) grabbed the pencils from my brother, and broke them. later that day when he needed something to write with, she sent him to the “coke room” (they stored the empty cases of soda bottles there, and it was well know to the kids as the punishment room.)because he was unprepared, and he was made to kneel on the empty case of coke bottles.
    I remember this story like it happened yesterday. my father came home from work, found out about the punishment (yes big brother was disruptive) and was ready to choke Monseigneur Purick, collar or not. the next morning he removed my sister and my brother from enrollment, and never stepped foot in our church again. thankfully I was enrolled in public school.

    how can an organization that would have an eight year old kneel on empty bottles, police itself?
    had my father left big brother enrolled would the abuse have escalated to something sexual, rather than just plain sadistic?
    screw the church. they don’t seem to have an issue with them screwing us.

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  14. hermit thrush says:

    Marriage was not a special privilege for straights, it just didn’t apply to any other union. It was what it was.

    of course marriage was a special privilege for straights. there’s no good reason to exclude gays from it! when you exclude one group of people from something for no good reason, that’s giving a special privilege to the in-group.

    look at where rancid’s way of thinking gets you.

    it used to be the case that marriage as such in the u.s. was only allowed between same-race couples. that’s just “what it meant,” because that’s how it had always been. so when different-race couples sought to marry, they were apparently seeking not equality, but special privileges.

    it used to be the case that voting as such in the u.s. was only allowed by land-owning men. so when women sought the right to vote, they were seeking not equality, but special privileges.

    it’s absurd and offensive beyond belief!

    Whats laughable is defending the marriage of gays while ostracizing other unions. It makes you a hypocrite.

    no hypocrisy here. whereas there are no good reasons to exclude gay couples from the institution of marriage, there really are legitimate reasons not to allow plural unions. bret and i got into a long thread about it a while ago. here’s a good article by jonathan rauch that lays out some of the reasons. the money quote from its conclusion:

    By this point it should be obvious that polygamy is, structurally and socially, the opposite of same-sex marriage, not its equivalent. Same-sex marriage stabilizes individuals, couples, communities, and society by extending marriage to many who now lack it. Polygamy destabilizes individuals, couples, communities, and society by withdrawing marriage from many who now have it.

    (just to be clear, “withdrawing marriage from many who now have it” doesn’t mean forcibly dissolving existing marriages, it means that fewer people will be able to marry in a society that allows polygamy.)

    one more thing, rancid. you seem to indicate support for civil unions in your 1:27 comment. but by your argument, opening the door to civil unions for gays should just as well open the door to plural civil unions. what gives?

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  15. mervel says:

    I do think you will have a very hard time making a case against other sorts of marriages once we leave the boundary that marriage is largely about children. That is really the main secular argument for only having men and women marry, it is a means of protecting the future of children and providing them with a mother and father who have made a commitment to raise them together. If we claim that marriage is not related to children who are the biological offspring of a man and a women, I would find it really hard to say that two women and a man should not have the right to marry if they please as consenting adults. If it is mainly a contract for financial and emotional support among any group of people, I think it would be certainly extended to include anyone who wants to freely enter into this contract.

    But I just don’t get freaked out over this whole thing too much. I honestly wish the Church would stop any lobbying efforts in this area, I think that battle has essentially already been lost by the Church politically which is probably a good thing. The teaching within the Church should not change and won’t change however. But still for me the quicker we get on with this the better, we can stop arguing about it and let people do what they are going to do anyway.

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  16. mervel says:

    If Christian marriage and the Sacrament of marriage has benefit and true meaning people will want to partake of it freely, the idea of us forcing our will on others even when we believe it is wrong headed I think is a big mistake and I do disagree with the actions of the Church and many other Christian groups to do this.

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  17. hermit thrush says:

    mervel, i don’t think any of this stands up. or if anything it argues for gay marriage.

    once we leave the boundary that marriage is largely about children…. If we claim that marriage is not related to children who are the biological offspring of a man and a women….

    elderly opposite-sex couples can marry. infertile men and women can marry. opposite-sex couples who want to adopt can marry. evidently their marriages will not be about producing and raising biological offspring. so if they can marry, then why shouldn’t gay couples be able to? the answer is that marriage is already much more complicated than just being about child rearing. it’s not even that the horse has already left the barn, it was never in there to begin with.

    That is really the main secular argument for only having men and women marry, it is a means of protecting the future of children and providing them with a mother and father who have made a commitment to raise them together.

    that makes no sense, for two reasons. one, allowing gay couples to marry does absolutely nothing to undermine straight marriages or the future of children being raised by straight parents. two, it’s really a universal argument for marriage in general: gay and straight marriages alike are means of protecting the future of children and providing them with two parents who have made a commitment to raise them together.

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  18. Rancid Crabtree says:

    HT, you make some valid points and some useless points. Recently a judge allowed 3 parents to be listed on a birth certificate. Plural marriage is coming. That’s fine I suppose if your one of the tiny fraction of Mormons or some ethnic culture that believes in plural marriage. But why not close relations? You yourself spoke of not being able to insure their significant other as a reason to allow gay marriage. Well, I can’t insure my brother who has no health insurance. Why should I not be able to marry him so he can be covered under my policy? It apparently isn’t about love or children, so why argue against it? Same for my mother or sister or first cousin. And if we’re goingt o allow plural marriage then pretty much anything else goes too. Think of it as no more than another corporation, maybe you’ll feel better.

    I like the idea of the vote going to landowning men and women, at least as far as school budgets go. Why should the people who don’t pay into the system have any right to vote to force others to support their wants?

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  19. Marc says:

    “Why should the people who don’t pay into the system have any right to vote to force others to support their wants?”

    Rancid, you don’t have to own land to be paying into the system. You think landlords don’t pass the cost of their taxes on to their tennants?

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  20. The Original Larry says:

    The endless parsing of what marriage is obscures the real issue: some people are offended by situations that don’t fit their view of things. My advice to them: don’t do it if it offends you. Keep your nose out of everyone else’s business. Civil marriage is a legal contract and as such, all should have access to it. Equal protection under the law; end of story. In your church, do as you please, so long as it is legal.

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  21. Mervel says:

    HT,

    Yes I think today in particular since the majority of children today (a slim majority but still a majority) are raised outside the bounds of a married couple-man and women, raising their own biological offspring the arguments prohibiting any other legal arrangements are much harder to make. Originally it was not the exclusion of others, but a social construct which was based on the concept of what was legally, financially and emotionally best for raising a child, it was indeed about property and the joining of families more than about romantic love. Children do need a mother and a father, however many indeed do fine without this basic structure and many do fine among gay couples.

    My point was simply that once we leave the basic reason for marriage in the first place, it will be impossible to make any good argument against offering the civil benefits to any group of consenting adults in any permutation. Which is Ok by me. It is such a divisive issue, even for people like me who do feel that traditional marriage is good and desirable, I feel that the damage we do arguing about it, is not really worth it.

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  22. Mervel says:

    OT, well I would not have a problem with that, however we see with the health care mandate that the government IS telling Churches what they MUST do even if it is against their beliefs. So I could easily envision a time where the government will certainly tell Churches who they can marry even if it goes against their teachings. It is the next step.

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  23. Pete Klein says:

    Concerning children and marriage.
    Has anyone ever done a good survey on why people get married?
    I have the feeling such a survey would find most many ask a woman to marry them because they love them and want the woman to be off limits to any other man. I would guess that some men want a family but wanting a family is not the number one reason they ask a girl to marry them.
    Not being a woman, I won’t even try to guess their reasons for saying yes. But I will guess this much. More women want a family than there are men who want a family.

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  24. hermit thrush says:

    My point was simply that once we leave the basic reason for marriage in the first place, it will be impossible to make any good argument against offering the civil benefits to any group of consenting adults in any permutation.

    and my point is that your “basic reason” was never there. either it’s already impossible, and has been impossible all along, to “make any good argument against offering the civil benefits to any group of consenting adults in any permutation,” or it’s just as possible as ever. gay marriage as such is irrelevant to this.

    i know the very next thing you say is “Which is OK by me,” so i’m not saying this to be belligerent with you personally, mervel. i’m saying this because i think a lot of people think your argument is a valid one to oppose gay marriage. it’s not. that’s a point that needs to be made.

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  25. Rancid Crabtree says:

    Pete, I got married because my wife told me we were getting married. Who was I to argue?

    Marc, and whats to say that the landlord is passing the cost on? Maybe he is, maybe he isn’t. I know on the one rental I had I could just barely get enough to cover the mortgage, much less the taxes. The renter doesn’t own the land and isn’t RESPONSIBLE for the taxes. If he doesn’t pay the landlord still has to. Those whoa re responsible for footing the bill should have more say in the spending they are going to have to pay for.

    HT, I’ve always thought it was impossible to make a good argument for changing the definition of marriage. Apparently I was wrong and sheer emotion is legal grounds to do so. Since that has happened, I don’t see how anyone can male any good argument for denying marriage to any one for any reason. At this point we may as well just open it up to everything goes.

    Do you have any valid argument not to open it to any combination desired? I haven’t seen you or anyone else make one yet.

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  26. The Original Larry says:

    Most of the “reasons” for civil marriage have to do with property and estate law and are no longer relevant. It’s not a religious affirmation nor is it for the “benefit” of children. That’s religious marriage, which is entirely the business of whatever religion one belongs to. Civil marriage is a contract and should be open to anyone who can legally enter into a contract.

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  27. Rancid Crabtree says:

    I went and read that link you offered where you and Brett argued about this a couple years back. If thats a mirror of your argument now, then I still don’t see any valid argument for barring any type of marriage you want to anyone or thing you want or any number of them. As you said in your 12:19 post “the reason was never there”. If you truly believe that then there is no way you can bar anything consenting people wish to do.

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  28. hermit thrush says:

    rancid, did you miss the last blockquote in my 7:37 post? did you follow the link to the article it came from?

    when i put the same points to bret way back when, it was like feeding them to a black hole. i hope that’s not something that runs in the family.

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  29. hermit thrush says:

    It apparently isn’t about love or children, so why argue against it?

    but i think it basically is about love. (or at least much more so about love than about children.) gay couples have just as much capacity to love each other as straight couples do. gay love is just as good as straight love. it’s unjust to allow straights to marry, but not gays.

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  30. hermit thrush says:

    and i should have added, of course it’s true that siblings or parents and children or what have you “love” each other. but that’s patently a different kind of relationship, and a different kind of love, than what ordinary romantic couples have.

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  31. hermit thrush says:

    rancid now, and bret back in the day, and conservatives generally on a great many topics, are making what i think is a gigantic error. i think it cuts to the heart of a lot of the intractability in these debates.

    my version of it goes like this. equality and liberty are where we start. they’re the default. if the law is going to treat different groups of citizens differently, or abridge liberty, then you have to have a good reason for it. what constitutes a “good” reason, or how to weigh different good reasons that point in different directions, is what we debate about.

    the problem with rancid and bret is that “because that’s how it’s always been” is NEVER a good reason. if that’s what your whole argument boils down to, then just give up. you’ve lost. it’s like you’re not even making an argument.

    to see why, take but the most cursory look at history. human slavery was around for millenia. before it was abolished, did the fact that there was such a long historical precedent for it somehow mean that it was an intrinsically wise practice? did that somehow make it any less wrong? it’s offensive and shocking to even raise such questions.

    that’s obviously an easy and extreme example, but you get the point. for all kinds of reasons, our society is full of embedded injustices and unfairnesses and unwise practices. because those have been around for a long time does nothing to make them any less wrong. these things have to be evaluted on the merits — on how they affect individuals and society. “because that’s how it’s always been” counts for nothing.

    now back to marriage. so far as i can tell, rancid’s (and bret’s before him) position on marriage is exactly that it should be kept exactly as it is, and not extended to gay couples, precisely because that’s how it’s always been. i’m at a loss to see anything else there. if rancid or anyone actually has another reason, or thinks that that’s a legitimate reason in and of itself, then i’d love to hear about it.

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  32. Mervel says:

    I can give it a shot although my hearts not really in it, what do they say not a hill I want to die on. One of the arguments is that if marriage is totally disconnected from biological children there is no valid state interest. Why create this civil structure of special rights at all particularly when it comes to taxes. Marriage intersects with the state when it comes down to property and inherence and if you re define marriage to not include a husband or a wife or the possibility of children ever ,but is really just a way for groups of people to get benefits there is no point for the state to offer the service. The state has no interest in romantic love. Certainly gay people can be in love but that does not mean the state should care. As far as how it’s always been yes that is not always a good argument but it is not always a bad one either. Also what is marriage itself include? I have read that some gay activists would not want fidelity to be a part of the expectation within marriage. But in the end these arguments will not hold. In a culture that divorces as much as we do that co habitats as much as we do the idea that we would exclude gays from the civil benefits based on these traditional views is indeed homophobic, heterosexuals have already rejected traditional marriage.

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  33. Walker says:

    I have to agree, Mervel. My wife and I lived together for six years before we married. Absolutely nothing in our relationship changed when we married. So why should our tax status, and dozens of other statuses with respect to external entities, change? It’s interesting that probably the major impact of marriage today has to do with health insurance; if we had a single-payer health system, that difference would all but go away. That leaves inheritance– marriage law acts in lieu of a will, in effect making the act of marrying into a kind of shorthand will. Interesting set of issues arise if you consider doing away with “this civil structure of special rights”.

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  34. Rancid Crabtree says:

    hermit thrush says:
    February 27, 2013 at 1:29 pm

    “rancid, did you miss the last blockquote in my 7:37 post? did you follow the link to the article it came from?”

    Nope, got it, don’t agree. “By this point it should be obvious that polygamy is, structurally and socially, the opposite of same-sex marriage, not its equivalent. Same-sex marriage stabilizes individuals, couples, communities, and society by extending marriage to many who now lack it. Polygamy destabilizes individuals, couples, communities, and society by withdrawing marriage from many who now have it.” That makes no sense. “…withdrawing marriage from many who now have it.” How? It no more withdraws marriage than gay marriage does, unless you agree that marriage means only one thing- one man/one woman. Maybe you want to stretch that to include “just couples”. But there is no withdrawing of marriage and their wouldn’t be if we allowed it or any other type of union. Want to marry your sister or brother or mother? Have at it. Who is harmed?

    BTW, no- I’m not in favor of polygamy or close relations marrying. But since the definition has already been altered, I see no reason to bar anyone else. You make the point yourself- “gay love is just as good as straight love. it’s unjust to allow straights to marry, but not gays.” If straight and gay love are good, then why is plural or familial love bad? Are you deciding what is “romantic love” now? Is that up to a court? And how can you even offer that up when you’ve gone on about insurance and legal issues, etc.? It’s hypocrisy to allow a new version to cover only what you’re comfortable with when you demand others swallow their objections to your ideas.

    On your last post- Intractability would be refusing to accept that a civil union with all the rights and privileges of a marriage was somehow not as good as a marriage because it had a different name, and then demanding the meaning of a word be changed to fit a new definition to satisfy your beef. If you can’t see that you’re lost from the get go. “Marriage” meant one thing, you changed it to mean something else. It’s no longer what it was. So in essence, you didn’t get the brass ring you wanted, you got a brass colored zinc ring that looks like the prize but isn’t. I realize you will never see that, but I do hope you see that since you got gay marriage, disenfranchising any other type of union has now become wrong.

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  35. hermit thrush says:

    That makes no sense. “…withdrawing marriage from many who now have it.” How?

    either you missed my parenthetical comment after the quote, or you failed to read the article, or both. here’s another summary version of the argument from rauch:

    Polygamy is bad social policy for exactly the reason gay marriage is good social policy: everyone should have the opportunity to marry. Broad access to marriage is important not only for individual wellbeing but for social stability. And, to oversimplify only a little, when one man gets two wives, some other man gets no wife. There’s no better path to inequality, social unrest, and authoritarian social structures than polygamy.

    again, all of this is laid out perfectly clearly in the article, but let me take a stab at explaining a little more.

    the observed reality of things is that when you allow polygamy, one-man-many-women arrangements are much more common than one-woman-many-men arrangements. like it or not, that’s just how it is. the result is that fewer men than women are able to participate in marriage, just because of how the numbers tilt. the men left with no access to marriage — that’s a problem! that’s a genuine, real, important difference between polygamy and couples-only marriage. this is what rauch means by “withdrawing marriage from many who now have it”: not that polygamy would somehow dissolve anyone’s existing marriage, but that if you ran our current society side-by-side with one where polygamy is allowed, you’d find there’s a certain population of men who currently have access to marriage but would lose it in the the polygamous version.

    this is why there’s no hypocrisy between advocating gay marriage and opposing plural marriage. you write, “I’m not in favor of polygamy or close relations marrying. But since the definition has already been altered, I see no reason to bar anyone else.” well, that right there is a perfectly good reason to bar plural marriage.

    (if you don’t think that’s a perfectly good reason, then for heaven’s sake, explain why.)

    i think it’s fine to bar marriages between family members between different generations (e.g. mother-son, father-nephew, etc.) because such relationships are very likely to be fraught with elements of untoward power dynamics, coercion, that sort of thing. that objection applies much less to same-generation relationships (brother-sister, cousin-cousin, etc.), and accordingly i don’t see a good reason to be opposed to them. (but who knows! this is not a pressing side of the issue and not something that occupies, well, any of my attention. maybe there are good reasons that i’m just not aware of.)

    Are you deciding what is “romantic love” now? Is that up to a court?

    oh please. i was just contrasting romantic love with the kind of love we typically feel for our non-spouse family members, as a clarification to the comment of mine that came right before it. i love my brother, but i don’t _love_ him, you know? but of course it’s possible for siblings to be in romantic love, and i don’t know of any good objections to why they shouldn’t be able to get married. maybe you can convince me of some!

    And how can you even offer that up when you’ve gone on about insurance and legal issues, etc.?

    not that it really matters, but just to point out how well rancid reads: where did i say anything about this in this thread?

    It’s hypocrisy to allow a new version to cover only what you’re comfortable with when you demand others swallow their objections to your ideas.

    it’s intolerance and prejudice to allow any version — doesn’t matter how old it is — to cover only what you’re comfortable with when you demand others swallow their objections to your ideas.

    Intractability would be refusing to accept that a civil union with all the rights and privileges of a marriage was somehow not as good as a marriage because it had a different name, and then demanding the meaning of a word be changed to fit a new definition to satisfy your beef. If you can’t see that you’re lost from the get go.

    no my friend, you’re the one who’s lost. that’s not intractability. it’s standing up for fairness. for equality. for justice.

    gay marriage and straight marriage — in every substantive, meaningful way, they’re the same. when the only difference you can find between them is “because that’s how it’s always been,” then you’ve found no meaningful difference at all.

    when two things are the same in substance, we should call them by the same name. for as the civil rights movement made very clear, separate but equal is inherently unequal. what rancid is arguing for is to bring jim crow into the marriage arena.

    “Marriage” meant one thing, you changed it to mean something else. It’s no longer what it was. So in essence, you didn’t get the brass ring you wanted, you got a brass colored zinc ring that looks like the prize but isn’t.

    the latent (ok, maybe not so latent) intolerance, elitism, and anti-gay sentiment (if outright homophobia is too strong a word) in that is shameful. poor rancid. those icky gays have been let into his beautiful garden and ruined it.

    so no, rancid. extending the institution of marriage to gays has strengthened it. it is better now than it was before. there is more love in the world, more stable relationships, more stable families. if you want to stand in the way of that, then you damn well ought to give a good reason.

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  36. Rancid Crabtree says:

    “And, to oversimplify only a little, when one man gets two wives, some other man gets no wife.”

    Horse puckey. There are 5 million more women in the US alone than men. On the world stage it’s 1.1-1 female to male, but we aren’t making law for the world. If that is your defense, you have no grounds.

    “i think it’s fine to bar marriages between family members between different generations (e.g. mother-son, father-nephew, etc.) because such relationships are very likely to be fraught with elements of untoward power dynamics, coercion, that sort of thing.”

    Again, based on what research and compared to what other relationship? Have you ever been exposed to the male gay literature? I’ve seen lots of it and it’s all about dominance, submission and subservience to the alpha in the relationship. Don’t even try to tell me that it’s somehow the same as a typical heterosexual relationship. You’ve made a completely groundless claim in this case! You provide unbiased research showing this is the case and I’ll gladly eat crow.

    You haven’t provided any reason yet to bar other types of marriage than straight and gay, non-related couples. All you’ve offered is a weak defense based on your sensibilities.

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  37. hermit thrush says:

    Horse puckey. There are 5 million more women in the US alone than men. On the world stage it’s 1.1-1 female to male, but we aren’t making law for the world. If that is your defense, you have no grounds.

    i’ve been very clear that i’ve been giving only summary versions of rauch’s argument. you would save both of us a lot of time if you would just read the whole article. it’s not that long. all the theorizing and mathematical modeling in the world is nice, but here’s a sample of what has happened with polygamy in practice:

    Such problems are not merely theoretical. In northern Arizona, a polygamous Mormon sect has managed its surplus males by dumping them on the street –
    literally. The sect, reports The Arizona Republic, “has orphaned more than 400 teenagers … in order to leave young women for marriage to the older men.” The paper goes on to say that the boys “are dropped off in neighboring towns, facing hunger, homelessness, and homesickness, and most cripplingly, a belief in a future of suffering and darkness.”

    rauch’s point about polygamy creating a population of men with no access to marriage — it’s absolutely legitimate. sorry but it really does give a valid reason to distinguish between couples-only and plural marriage. here’s even more on the ill practical effects of polygamy.

    Have you ever been exposed to the male gay literature? I’ve seen lots of it and it’s all about dominance, submission and subservience to the alpha in the relationship.

    links please?

    on the other hand, do you actually know any gay people?

    i’m a young-ish guy with lots of gay friends (and straight ones too). i generally think people should be very wary of anecdotal evidence, but what you’re claiming completely flies in the face of everything i’ve seen. the gay relationships face the same dynamics and challenges as the straight ones. there’s no substantive difference at all. the gay relationships are just as prone to “dominance, submission and subservience to the alpha” as the straight ones are, and it’s preposterous to the point of offense to suggest that they’re all about that. for heaven’s sake.

    Again, based on what research and compared to what other relationship?

    fair enough. i think it seems silly to deny that generational power issues exist and are important, but i’m happy to let it go. like i said, the incest side of the issue is not something i spend much time thinking about. here’s an argument against incest on the grounds that incest undermines family structures (whereas, crucially, gay marriage strengthens families). i certainly think that’s a legitimate point. whether it’s sufficient to outlaw incest, i don’t know.

    i also don’t really care. when you outlaw gay marriage, the gay person can marry no one. when you outlaw polygamy or incest, the polygamist or incest-seeker can still marry someone. obviously it sucks if you’re prevented from marrying whom you want, but the first is a way bigger problem than the second.

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  38. hermit thrush says:

    one more thing rancid. are civil unions for incest and polygamy supposed to be ok?

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  39. Mervel says:

    What is the definition of marriage? At one time marriage included a vow of lifetime fidelity to one person until death (adultery was always wrong) and a total sharing of all aspects of your life, including children, place of residence and all of each person’s assets. Is that still the case?

    You don’t need marriage to be in romantic love, if you don’t want to make a vow of fidelity, join all your assets,. be legally bound to someone and raise children together, what is the point? The only point left would be getting things, getting health benefits, getting survivor benefits, getting tax benefits. I think this is where philosophically saying that marriage that does not now contain a husband or a wife or the possibility of biological children of that husband and wife; IS a major change to marriage. Not that it is a bad change or something horrible; but I do think it is a change I think we are underestimating the change and honestly don’t know the impact.

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  40. hermit thrush says:

    no it’s not a major change to marriage.

    there are already plenty of situations that we call marriage where there’s no potential for the creation and raising of biological children. there have always been plenty of them. elderly couples. infertile couples. couples who, for whatever reason, just want to adopt.

    my wife and i have been together as a couple for a while, but we only got married a couple years ago. we don’t have any kids. what if we find out tomorrow that one or both of us is infertile? would that somehow make our marriage less valid? i’ve got a couple birdies to twirl on for anyone who thinks so.

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  41. Mervel says:

    No not at all. What does validity even mean in this context? There would be no such thing as an invalid marriage. What does family mean ? All of these change when we leave traditional definitions of even having a husband and a wife. I think it may be fine I just think it is not true to say this is not a big change.

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  42. Rancid Crabtree says:

    HT, I thought in the past you had spoken of a daughter?

    The article, which I read, is not convincing to me. I think there is a lot of cherry picking, like the Mormon sect you mention and some huge leaps. When I ask why polygamous marriage among consenting adults is wrong and that is the type of defense you offer, sorry Charlie, that’s not a defense. You cherry pick the worst example you can find as a the norm. In theory, if a group did want to marry and were all consenting adults and not young people forced to obey, the what is your defense? Any cult-like situation is going to have issues, whether it’s David Koresh and the Branch Davidians, the Manson Family or Warren Jeffries. (Mrs R tells me I should point out that the reason the Mormans began plural marriages in the first place is because the majority of the males had been shot, hung, etc. and there were a whole lot of widows and kids to care for. They’re first choice was to be left alone to practice their faith and them none of this would have happened!)

    I am not going to provide you links to gay porn, look it up yourself. And yes, I have gay male and female friends. They are just people, like anyone else, not infallible saints.

    I’m not in favor of incestuous relationships, polygamy etc. I’m simply pointing out that you can not bar other non-traditional marriages now that you’ve opened the door. It’s coming. We now have 3 parents on birth certificates. It’s just around the corner and you’re uncomfortable with it, think it’s unhealthy or abnormal or something. Well, welcome to the club pal.

    Mervel is right. It may fine, it may be legal, but it’s a huge change.

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  43. mervel says:

    For me the time of opposition is over in that the damage we do to each other in is not worth the damage that may or may not occur from changing the definition.

    For example if we really wanted to make a stand for traditional marriage we should have been stronger in opposing no fault divorce, in opposing the divorce culture in general. But we didn’t do that, a divorced and remarried person is also in a non-traditional marriage, a person living with another person outside of marriage and raising children is a non-traditional marriage, and so forth. So those things are all fine with us, but then we oppose only gay marriage, this is the inconsistency. At this point I would simply wish to work toward strengthening marriage, reducing divorce and ensuring that religious groups will be able to practice traditional marriage through their Churches as they see fit according to their teachings.

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  44. hermit thrush says:

    The article, which I read, is not convincing to me. I think there is a lot of cherry picking, like the Mormon sect you mention and some huge leaps. When I ask why polygamous marriage among consenting adults is wrong and that is the type of defense you offer, sorry Charlie, that’s not a defense.

    i think you’ve been confusing two things. the first is whether there exist legitimate arguments that militate towards banning polygamy. the second is how to weigh those arguments against the general principle that people should be free to do as they please.

    everything i’ve been saying about polygamy has been to the first point. you seem to be more on the second point, or carelessly sliding between the two, or who knows what.

    about the first point, i just don’t see room for debate. the state does have a legitimate interest in promoting a stable society, and polygamy does exert a destabilizing influence. that is a real and meaningful reason to outlaw polygamy.

    the second point is about whether that, combined with whatever other anti-polygamy arguments we can come up with, is a sufficient reason to ban polygamy. what you’ve just explained to me is that you don’t think it is. i’m imagining you’re thinking something along the lines of, ok, sure, there are some problems with polygamy like the article describes, but these are absolute worst-case scenarios, not likely to be very widespread in practice, and maybe even trumped up at that — so no, they’re not worth trumping someone’s personal freedom over.

    that’s fine! how each of us weighs the different sides of an issue is up to us. its our own value judgment. i think you’re perfectly entitled to think that the objections to polygamy raised by rauch and other people i’ve linked to do not make sufficient grounds to ban it. i understand that point of view.

    however, i also think a different person would be just as entitled to come to the opposite conclusion. it’s reasonable either way. (personally, i don’t know whether polygamy should be illegal or not.)

    similarly, i think there are legitimate arguments to be made against incest (e.g. the subversion of family structures). i personally think the arguments against incest are weaker than those against polygamy (at least based on what i know). but i again think that when you weigh the problems caused by incest against the costs of infringing personal liberty, it’s reasonable to come down on either side of the issue.

    gay marriage is not like that. the difference is that there’s no legitimate argument against gay marriage in the first place. you never get past the first point above. i feel like i’ve been begging you, bret, jdm, anyone — give us a legitimate reason. but no one can do it. no one has an actual, specific, substantive reason not to allow gay marriage.

    “because that’s how it’s always been” — that’s never an acceptable reason for anything. there’s no substance to that at all. it’s garbage.

    “because that’s just what marriage means” — same deal. nothing substantive.

    “once you ‘open the door’ to gay marriage, you’ll have to allow everything else” — that makes no sense! it’s like saying once you let blacks in the bar, you’ll have to let children in too, as though there couldn’t possibly be a good race-independent reason to keep children out. or to go for something that cuts a lot closer, it’s exactly the same as saying that once you let mixed-race couples marry, you’ll have to allow everything else. how do people make that kind of an argument with a straight face?

    I am not going to provide you links to gay porn, look it up yourself.

    *facepalm*

    here i thought that by “the male gay literature” rancid meant academic research into the characteristics of male gay relationships. but no. he meant porn. (and he’s seen lots of it!) look at his 8:14 post — that’s what he’s basing his comparison between gays and straights on. it beggars belief. it’s the sort of thing where you couldn’t make a joke about someone following such a ridiculous line of thought b/c no one would think it’s remotely plausible, yet here we are. wow.

    here’s a hint, rancid. you know how you just complained about rauch’s article “cherry pick[ing] the worst example you can find as a the norm”? you might want to think about that in connection with how you’ve been forming your impressions of gay relationships.

    I’m not in favor of incestuous relationships, polygamy etc.

    then how, by your own argument, can you possibly advocate gay civil unions? of course i think your whole argument is senseless bs, but if “opening the door” to gay marriage is supposed to somehow force upon us polygamy and incest and who knows what else, then just as surely “opening the door” to gay civil unions will force upon all sorts of other civil unions. what gives?

    We now have 3 parents on birth certificates.

    so?

    It’s just around the corner and you’re uncomfortable with it, think it’s unhealthy or abnormal or something. Well, welcome to the club pal.

    no. my views on policy are rooted in fact, argument, and reason. i’m genuinely open to being convinced either way.

    you, on the other hand, have genuinely tipped your hand. you actually wrote:

    “Marriage” meant one thing, you changed it to mean something else. It’s no longer what it was. So in essence, you didn’t get the brass ring you wanted, you got a brass colored zinc ring that looks like the prize but isn’t.

    all of these “arguments” from you are just fluff. that quote is what it really comes down to. way back at the start of this thread, you actually claimed “[r]epublicans, as a group, don’t oppose tolerance for homosexuality so much as they oppose creating special privileges for homosexuals.” but the block quote completely, spectacularly puts the lie to that! your prejudice and intolerance are laid right out on display. Those People have been let into your beautiful garden and spoiled it. time to stop bs-ing yourself and everyone else about it.

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